Effectively marketing your business online – Start with why


Start with WhyI recently gave a talk to Uttoxeter WiRE Network – that’s Women in Rural Enterprise – about marketing small businesses online. I hope no one was disappointed that I didn’t tell them what platforms to use or which buttons to press, but that’s not where you need to start when you’re thinking about your strategy for promoting your business online.

To put the world we live in into context:

  • It took 38 years for radio to achieve 50 million listeners.
  • It took 13 years for television to achieve 50 million viewers.
  • But it only took 4 years for the internet to achieve 50 million users.

So no small business worth its salt can ignore the benefits of digital marketing.

So, apart from that, why should you market your businesses online?

Well …

It’s affordable. Many of the platforms and tools you can use to help you are free or have a non-paid version, albeit often with fewer features but who needs an all singing, all dancing version to start with? Once you find what works for you, that’s the time to look at subscriptions and paid services.

It’s easy to test your ideas, measure what’s working and what’s not and ditch the flops.

It’s a continuous process. Long gone are the days when we had to decide how to spend our budget upfront, created leaflets, billboards, radio ads … and then held our breath waiting for the campaign to be a success. Nowadays, with digital marketing, we start small, plan what we’re going to do, do what we’ve planned, measure and track and then we tweak, do again, measure again … and so on and so on. A continuous process, allocating budget if, where and when it’s needed.

Right, now tell me what online channels to use

What about search engine optimisation, or perhaps pay per click? Would digital display marketing work for me or maybe email marketing is better? Everyone says I should be using social media marketing and I fancy the idea of mobile marketing …

Stop! Stop! Stop! Take a step back.

First think about your why

  • Why does your business exist?
  • What’s your dream?
  • How will this help your customers or clients and how will you achieve your goals?
  • What are you offering your customers or clients?
  • What is your Golden Circle?

Start with your why and then create your brand story

Not sure what I mean – watch this TED talk from Simon Sinek.

If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you they’ll do business with you.

Zig Ziglar

What’s your market reality

Market reality is a much better indicator of who your customers are and their needs than market research. Just start with your customer and work backwards.

And there are lots of tools to help you including:

  • Search tools and keyword research tools – such as Google Keyword Planner – to find out what your customers are searching for online.
  • Social listening tools – such as Google Alerts – to find out what your customers are saying online.
  • Digital analytical tools – such as Google Analytics – to determine what your customers are doing online.

So, who are your customers or clients?

Just to be clear, it’s not everyone.

If you don’t know who you’re marketing to, you’ll never be able to grow your business and you’ll waste loads of time chasing your tail.

Create customer personas, give them a name and market to them.

  • What’s their demographic – age, gender, location?
  • What do they do and where do they do it?
  • What do they do offline?
  • What do they do online?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are their challenges?

Feeling confused? Use this customer persona sheet to help you (PDF)

Now rank your customers

So now you know who your customers or clients are, it’s time to rank them.

Decide what their value is to you and determine how accessible they are. Your high value, easily accessible customers are your ‘sweet spot’ customers and these are the people you should be marketing to.

If you sell sledges, your highest value customers may be Eskimos but if you can’t reach them, they are of little use to you. So while mobile savvy, young people in Sweden who enjoy snow sports at the weekend may not be worth as much to you on an individual basis, you can easily reach them so they will be your ‘sweet spot’ customers and they will be who you’ll focus your marketing on.

Pick your low hanging fruit first.

And then map out your customer journey

To fully grasp the needs of your customers, you need to map their journey to understand how they are interacting with your business and where you need to focus your marketing efforts to increase engagement, awareness and ultimately revenue.

  • Where does a customer first encounter your business online?
  • What touch points are the most important when a customer makes a decision about your products or services?
  • What do you do that makes your potential customers leave … and what makes them come back again?

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology, not the other way round.

Steve Jobs

What do your customers want to know?

No, they don’t want you to just sell to them.

You know who they are, what their dreams, challenges and goals are, what they like to do online and offline, so you’ve probably got a good idea now of what they want to know about too.

Brainstorm ideas for blog posts, social media, email campaigns and anything else you can think about. Don’t forget keywords – what search terms do your customers use and how will you incorporate them into your marketing comms, social media bios and profiles.

But don’t forget your why.

Think about what you want them to do too – linking this to your business objectives. Have clear calls to action on all your marketing content and consider using landing pages to help you achieve your objectives whether that’s building your email list or selling a particular product or service.

Now you can decide which channels to use

You know your why, you know who your customers are, you know what your business and marketing objectives are, so now it’s time to decide where you’re going to focus your attention:

  • Search marketing – SEO and/or PPC
  • Digital display marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Mobile marketing.

Make a plan

Be regular and consistent – make sure you’re in the forefront of your customers’ or clients’ minds.

It’s said that it takes at least seven points of contact before a prospective customer buys, so it’s important to be present, but don’t overdo it. No one likes the digital equivalent of someone shouting in their face!

And if your plan isn’t working, review what’s going wrong, make changes and try again.

Avoid overwhelm – automate

It would be easy to get so bogged down online that you don’t have time to do anything else – or if you’re not careful it can all seem too much so you become a rabbit in the headlights.

There are lots of automation tools that can help you streamline processes, many are free – at least initially.

You can use Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule your social media, MailChimp for your email campaigns (automation is now available on even the most basic package) and you can schedule the time your blog posts are published, so if you have a quiet week, write your posts for the next few weeks and schedule them to go out as and when.

Measure your result

Whatever you do, don’t forget to measure what you’re doing, ditch the failures, tweak the successes, rinse and repeat.